Facebook has issued a response to the sharp comments made by actor and comedian Sacha Baron Cohen last week.
Cohen made the comments at the Anti-Defamation League last Thursday, where he accepted the International Leadership Award.
He firstly spoke about social media and the internet generally, describing it as “the greatest propaganda machine in history”.
“All this hate and violence is being facilitated by a handful of internet companies,” he said.
“Think about it. Facebook, YouTube and Google, Twitter and others — they reach billions of people. The algorithms these platforms depend on deliberately amplify the type of content that keeps users engaged —stories that appeal to our baser instincts and that trigger outrage and fear.
“It’s why YouTube recommended videos by the conspiracist Alex Jones billions of times. It’s why fake news outperforms real news, because studies show that lies spread faster than truth.”
Although Cohen acknowledged social media companies had taken steps to reduce hate speech on their platforms, the actor suggested: “these steps have been mostly superficial”.
“Now, if a neo-Nazi comes goose-stepping into a restaurant and starts threatening other customers and says he wants to kill Jews, would the owner of the restaurant, a private business, be required to serve him an elegant eight-course meal?” Cohen continued.
“Of course not. The restaurant owner has every legal right, and, indeed, I would argue a moral obligation, to kick that Nazi out. And so do these internet companies.”
Facebook has since responded to the comments, clarifying its stance on hate speech.
“Hate speech is actually banned on our platform. We ban people who advocate for violence and we remove anyone who praises or supports it,” a Facebook spokesperson said.
“Nobody – including politicians – can advocate or advertise hate, violence or mass murder on Facebook.”
Cohen pointed to Mark Zuckerberg’s publically stated aim, that Facebook should “uphold as wide a definition of freedom of expression as possible”.
The actor implored the Facebook boss to rethink this stance.
“The ultimate aim of society should be to make sure that people are not targeted, not harassed and not murdered because of who they are, where they come from, who they love or how they pray,” he said.
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